The Silver Dollar: An Oral History of Downtown Phoenix's Notorious '90s Nightclub

Billie Joe Amstrong of Green Day performs at the Silver Dollar in January 1993.
Billie Joe Amstrong of Green Day performs at the Silver Dollar in January 1993. Kelly Clark
The evening of January 2, 1993, was a chaotic shitshow at the Silver Dollar. Two inches of toilet water from a stopped-up men’s room toilet had flooded out onto the middle of the dance floor. In the mosh pit, countless pairs of Chucks were getting drenched. Mohawks were mussed. Performing onstage to the crowd of about 400 was Green Day, less than one year from the release of Dookie, the breakthrough album that would catapult the Bay Area punk act to superstardom. Many of the songs in the band’s setlist that night would eventually become radio anthems.

The show was also the final hurrah for the Silver Dollar. Starting in December 1990 — 30 years ago this month — the now-legendary downtown Phoenix venue burned bright for two years, hosting underground shows and dance parties at a dive bar near Fourth and Madison streets. In those days, downtown Phoenix was a nightlife wasteland with a reputation for being a ghost town after sundown.

“The Silver Dollar helped change all that,” says Blaz Gallegos, a DJ, promoter, and former Valley resident. “It brought more of the underground to downtown.”

Exposing a crowd of hundreds of punks to fecal coliform bacteria wasn’t the only memorable experience during the Silver Dollar’s all-too-brief run. The club — a small bar with an attached 300-person room for performances — was a refuge for misfits, weirdos, and punks, as well as members of Phoenix’s art community and EDM scenes.

Ian MacKaye of Fugazi once fell through the rickety outdoor stage, acquiring some significant splinters in the process. Drummer Bill Ramsey performed naked as a member of punk act Horace Pinker. Gibby Haynes may or may not have fired a shotgun into the air during a Butthole Surfers show, depending on who you ask.

Notorious ecstasy kingpin “English” Shaun Attwood came there to dance. Grammy-winning house DJ Eddie Amador regularly worked the mixers. Then-burgeoning bands like the rap-rock ensemble Phunk Junkeez got a springboard to fame.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of this wild-ass two-year run, we’ve collected memories from some of the Silver Dollar’s many patrons, performers, and employees. Enjoy.

Wind the clock all the way back to the 1930s. The building at Fourth and Madison was the Silver Dollar Buffet, a neighborhood hangout with BOGO beer during the day and music at night. A few decades later, after more industry had moved into downtown, the building was home to a cocktail lounge surrounded by warehouses. As the neighborhood became seedier in the ’70s and ’80s, so did the Silver Dollar. It was a squalid, high-crime zone that the Arizona Republic called “Phoenix Skid Row” when covering shootings there. By the late ’80s, its then-owner was looking to sell. Enter entrepreneur Randy Blankenship, who, along with a few business partners, was looking to open a bar.

Randy Blankenship, former co-owner: An elderly lady named Doris owned it with her husband, and he’d passed away. It was next to these produce fulfillment warehouses. She had her walk-in bar and one of the only [package] liquor licenses in Phoenix at the time. She’d cash people’s checks and they’d carry their booze out in a bag. Back then, that part of downtown, people didn’t want to go there.

Derrick Bostrom, drummer, Meat Puppets: That whole area was nothing but squalor and bad news.

click to enlarge Randy Blankenship outside of the Silver Dollar in the spring of 1991. - NEW TIMES ARCHIVES
Randy Blankenship outside of the Silver Dollar in the spring of 1991.
New Times archives
Blankenship: I’d always wanted to do a club. Something rock ’n’ roll, underground. A forum for new musicians who couldn’t get a start in other places and no one would give them a shot. One of my partner’s brothers-in-law owned that strip of buildings and said I should go talk with her, since she was wanting to retire. It didn’t take her long to make a decision. We bought her license and her goodwill [in 1990].

Bostrom: It’s the sort of thing that happened in Phoenix a lot. These legendary places that would open in bad parts of downtown and have a limited window to put shows on before getting pushed out.

Tony Beram (a.k.a. Tony Victor), founder of Mersey Productions: From ‘81 to ‘88, I was doing promoting punk at [some] of these short-lived venues in downtown – Vivian's, Mad Gardens, The Temple on Central and McKinley – some open less than a month. My biggest involvement in the Silver Dollar was [laying the groundwork] what came before it.

Blankenship: The whole landscape of downtown Phoenix was different then. There weren’t $300,000 lofts, upscale restaurants, and things like that. People didn’t live there. Most just came there to work. Because there were, like, zero bars downtown, we had a real opportunity there. People told us no one would come, but we thought: If you did something cool, they’ll go anywhere. My partner’s brother-in-law owned the building, so we were getting cheap rent. We said, “If it fails, what have we lost? But if we build something cool, people might come.”

Blaz Gallegos, DJ, promoter, and former Valley resident: The only thing that was happening in the underground scene in downtown prior to Silver Dollar were the parties at The Alwun House or what [Pete] Petrisko was doing over at Gallery X. It was crazy, a real eye-opener. The first night they opened up, he had some guys who took parts from baby dolls and made them robotic. Myself and Chris Flores did our first underground [dance] night there, Groove.

Chris Flores, DJ and former Valley resident: I’d been throwing underground parties at warehouses since the late ’80s. We didn’t really call them raves yet. We’d have a sound system, charge people $10 for all the beer they can drink, and go until dawn. Pete rented Gallery X to me and Blaz for Groove, and it was going off for awhile. When it ended, Blaz and myself moved to L.A. until Silver Dollar [brought us back].

Blankenship and the other partners got to work, revamping the original cramped bar area and building a spacious, 300-person capacity club and venue in the industrial space next door.

Blankenship: Before we could do anything with Silver Dollar, we had to clean the place up and turn it around. It was a [neighborhood dive], a place for produce workers to come after work. So we closed it down and started a major remodel. We painted it black, put up sparse lighting, and from there started to figure out where we were going to have entertainment. It wasn’t big enough for live music, and there was room next door in the [warehouse], so we knocked a hole in the wall and turned this cool industrial-looking space into the club.

Bill Ramsey, former drummer, Horace Pinker: It looked a lot like a black box theater, since they wanted it to feel like a performance venue.

Blankenship: It took us a few months to set it up to where we could have any shows or parties, but after a while, we said, “Let’s start bringing in some locals that will bring in booze [sales],” because back then the cover charge really went to the bands. So we had live shows first. Then, eventually, we were approached by dance party promoters.

According to “Remembering The Silver Dollar Club,” a Facebook group for fans and former patrons, one of the first shows was a New Year’s Eve 1990 gig with Sun City Girls, 8 Circuit Model, Sugar Babies, and Badass Motherfuckers. The punk offerings would soon expand.

Eric Astor, former concert promoter, Three Guys Productions: In the early days of Silver Dollar, it was dance parties, rock bands. They weren’t doing too much punk. More classic stuff. They weren’t doing much underground or bands out of San Francisco or L.A. like Green Day and Crimpshrine. I was promoting with Eryc Simmerer and Scott Eastman from Horace Pinker. We were doing shows at these DIY places in the middle of nowhere — anywhere we could get a gig, even in a friend’s living room. When we found the Silver Dollar, it was like found money. We started to get the word out.

Eryc Simmerer, former concert promoter, Three Guys Productions: I was involved with this publication/record label called Hippycore, which was a mainstay of the late '80s Phoenix scene, and a lot of bands would contact me to get shows, like bands from England, Germany, or California. Eric and I eventually pooled our resources to promote shows. He'd talk mostly to east coast, straight-edge bands, and I'd have contacts with more with the Bay Area/Maximumrocknroll bands. We started bringing all these bands to Phoenix to play.

Ramsey: I’d heard about it through friends, and I can vividly remember the first time I went down there. It was in March 1991 for Naked Raygun and Malignus Youth. Then I came back the next night for Jawbox. Those shows were insane. Kevin Carl from G-Whiz put us on the ALL/Left Insane show in April. I joke that Horace Pinker was the unofficial house band since we played there like five jillion times. Then I started to become friends with the people who worked there and got involved with the shows.

In February 1991, Blaz Gallegos began promoting dance parties at Silver Dollar, which featured arty and experimental elements and an emphasis on house music.

Gallegos: The main crew was me, Eddie Amador, Mr. Lewis, and Tall Paul. The first party we did was Funhouse. A guy named John Wright from ASU started getting art students to help and it really upped our game. One of the girls who was contributing to the artwork wanted to do a funhouse for her thesis. So she built one on the dance floor at Silver Dollar. And all her college professors came down to see it before the party started, and some of ’em stayed around for the party.

Eddie Amador, DJ, producer, and former Valley resident: It was a countercultural place to be, the Silver Dollar. That’s what we loved about it, you know, whatever your thing is. I knew of that bar, because my grandparents viewed it as a not-good area of town, and that bar, the Silver Dollar, was kind of a “You don’t ever go there” place to all the kids. But when I went there, it was amazing. We were free to do whatever we wanted.

Gallegos: They didn't have a sound system so we had to bring our own, but we were really glad they let us have full control of the whole area [club].

Steven Rogers, local nightclub entrepreneur: I owned [the now-defunct Tempe nightspot] Club UM and some of the college students said, “You should go to the Silver Dollar.” It was the beginning of rave culture, and there were some underground parties here and there, and people were like, “Oh, here’s the one bar that’s always underground.” The twisted creativity level reminded me of the East Village, and the crowd was diverse. You’d see bikers next to drag queens next to frat boys.

Gallegos: We did about five or six Saturday nights, and things were going pretty good, but they said we weren’t meeting our bar quota. They booted us out, but we later found out the bar manager at that time was taking all our money. The new manager called us back and wanted us back. After they kicked us out, they brought Chris Flores, who created his Downtown night on Fridays, which was enormously successful, and they wanted us to do a Wednesday. But the same crowd wouldn’t come out twice a week. So me and Mr. Lewis and Eddie were doing some of our best work, but a majority of people didn’t see it.

John Commerford, former Silver Dollar manager: I moved here in ’90 and eventually found the Silver Dollar. I came in, met Randy, and then was taken over to a table with the rest of the [partners], and somehow convinced them I could attract a crowd and do an underground dance night. They bought it, and the next thing I knew I was running the club.

Blankenship: John was one of the best managers we had. Some of the others were draining us dry, stealing from us or whatever. But John did things differently, asking us for money to book cool shows and events. So we thought, “Let’s take a chance.” Some of them worked really well.

Flores: Silver Dollar had the space we needed to present an underground night. And they were eager to have anyone who’d bring them business. It was the perfect place for us. [Local artist] Mannix was my partner at the time and he’d do all the visuals — all these trippy projections and film loops on the wall. He’d repaint stages and came up with all the aesthetics, right down to the fliers. And they’d open up and do a party until 3 or 4 a.m.

Sloane Burwell, Silver Dollar regular: There was house and techno on Friday, industrial on Saturday, and basically whatever anybody else wanted to do. Chris and Mannix would paint the dancer risers every Friday. So you had to be careful what shoes you wore because you could get wet paint all over them.

Gallegos: When you start introducing people to a lifestyle or a scene, that's where the real magic happens. When you've got a good mixture of people showing up to party and dance, that's when you're making an impact on things.

click to enlarge A flier for an ALL show in early 1991 at Silver Dollar. - KAREN JASPER CRISTOBAL GACULA
A flier for an ALL show in early 1991 at Silver Dollar.
Karen Jasper Cristobal Gacula
Commerford: We had tons of dance nights: regular Friday and Saturday parties, [LGBT] nights every week, and all these big dance parties. We had a period there where after last call at [1 o'clock] in the morning, a shit-ton of underage kids would come in for after-hours. The place would be jumping until 4 or 5 or whenever we went home. There were a lot of days where I'd go home at dawn.

Ramsey: One of the things that was great about Silver Dollar was that outdoor space between their building and the other buildings that could be fenced off and hold thousands of people. So for outdoor shows, they'd run fences on the east and west side of the loading yard between the Silver Dollar and the warehouse and just fence off the loading dockyard. I don't ever remember asking our neighbors or the city for permission to fence things off. We just did it.

The indoors could usually hold 400 to 500 people; legally, it was like 300 and change. And there was a DJ booth elevated up a little stairwell in the middle. And we had all-ages punk shows.

Will Tynor, Silver Dollar regular: It sucked being an underage punk in Phoenix at the time. The Nile wasn’t a thing yet. I couldn’t go to Hollywood Alley or Sun Club yet because I wasn’t 21 and I was too nervous to sneak in. But Silver Dollar always had shows where the bar was caged off from the kids.

Simmerer: If you were putting on all-ages shows in the '80s and '90s in Phoenix, you were just on this constant hunt for [venues], and anything would do. Silver Dollar Club was one of the few places that would let you do all-ages shows where they'd separate the bar from the rest of the place. They were pliable and they weren't worried about any issues. They were more into having the show and not the headache of how do you separate the bar from the kids.

Ramsey: Inside the bar, it smelled overwhelmingly like stale, cheap beer. The floor was bare concrete and was like a porn theater from all the spills. Kegs were always overflowing and they served cocktails and beer in really cheap-ass [plastic] cups. It was constant. It was always so sticky and nasty. They'd mop it and it wouldn't change a thing, it's like they could never get it out of the floor. 

Commerford: I didn’t know people here at first, but the people I met were making the Dollar their own scene, like the guys from Horace Pinker. Their idea was to have ALL and these bands I had no idea about play. The idea was, if we brought more people in to see the club and they saw we were cool, the shows would promote the dance side and vice-versa. If anybody wanted to throw a show that’d bring in people, I wanted them to come, do their thing, and make the place their own.

Burwell: DJ Randall had some things going on in Tempe at the time, but this was about the only thing that was happening in Phoenix. You knew something was happening at the Silver Dollar. Even if it was an off night, it was going to be a merry band of weirdos. It was a place where you definitely felt safe inside. But you sure as shit were not going to loiter outside.

Phil Williams (a.k.a. “Hollywood”), former security and head bouncer, Silver Dollar: I was working at a machine shop in West Phoenix and kept hearing advertisements for the Dollar on [KUPD] as this “alternative underground nightclub.” It caught my attention. I had to check the place out and they eventually hired me as security.

Commerford: We wanted to be welcoming: cool people, handsome people, misfits ... we very much wanted you to come and play and be happy. That was exactly the vibe I was chasing the whole time.

In summer 1991, Blankenship parted ways with the Silver Dollar Club after irreconcilable differences with his fellow owners.

Blankenship: The partners all started going down separate paths when it came to the club. Big time. I sold out my equity [stake] and started the Sub-Cultural Art Center over [on Central Avenue and Van Buren Street] with one partner. We got it from a lady who was doing punk shows there but wasn’t making any money. So we took it over.

Joe Valiente (a.k.a. Soulman), frontman, Phunk Junkeez: In 1991, we doing illegal warehouse parties. We really wanted to get legit, but weren’t getting any attention from Long Wong’s or anything on Mill Avenue. We did shows at Sub-Cultural Arts Center and met Randy. He took us over to Silver Dollar and introduced us to Bob Miller, one of the other owners. We needed a place for all-ages shows for 400 to 500 people, and they had that big room. One show in, they said, “You guys need to go outside,” because we were ripping up the room. It worked out because the outdoor stage was huge. We were getting 1,000 people at a time.

click to enlarge A circa 1991 photo of lendendary post-hardcore/art punk band Fugazi. - JOHN FALLS
A circa 1991 photo of lendendary post-hardcore/art punk band Fugazi.
John Falls
The crowds at Silver Dollar got even bigger, reaching a zenith on September 9, 1991, when an estimated 1,200 rock and punk fans swamped the club’s outdoor stage for a show by Fugazi. The staunchly independent post-hardcore band was fresh off the release of its second studio album, Steady Diet of Nothing, and was surging in popularity. What followed was a night of mass chaos, mishaps, and huge amounts of cash.

Eric Astor, former co-promoter, Three Guys Productions: I think Fugazi was one of the first shows we did at the Dollar. I’d booked them a couple of other times they’d come through Arizona, and they called wanting to play here again, asking for someplace with 700 to 800 people. So it had to be outside at the Silver Dollar, since it was big enough.

Ian MacKaye, vocalist and guitarist, Fugazi: At that time, Fugazi was growing exponentially in terms of crowds, going from 50 to 300 to 1,500 people every time we’d come back to a city. Most bands would sort of graduate out of the underground, but we were trying to keep things underground. We were still doing shows at [all-ages places] with kids for the most part, as opposed to, like, 1,500-capacity venues. This was by design. We didn’t want to work with those people. We wanted to work with the punks we’d gotten to know and Eric had done a show for us at [now-defunct all-ages venue] Time Out of Mind in 1989.

Tynor: It seemed like the entire Phoenix punk scene went to the show, which made you realize how small it was was back then.

Jon Walworth, former Valley resident: I was 16 when my high school friends and I went to see Fugazi. That was my first show, my punk-rock christening. We saw a flyer at a record store, piled into one car, and even picked up a couple of kids along the way who we saw walking in downtown Phoenix. They were wearing a good shirt. “Hey, man, where’s the Silver Dollar Club?” We couldn’t even find it. We were like, “Come on, jump in, we’re going there, too.”

Astor: We’d expected 700 to 800 people, and like 1,200 showed up. It was so crazy, we had to open up more gates to get everyone in, and I just had random people helping take all the money. It was Fugazi, so the cover was only $5. We’d have bags filled with crumpled-up bills and wound up sitting on all this cash and trying to get it safely inside the club so we could count it.

Ramsey: Horace Pinker was one of the openers, and I was helping with the door. We did our best to keep racist [skinheads] out. There were so many people I’d never seen before, but Eryc Simmerer had this photographic memory and would recognize someone from [other local clubs] and go, “I know you’re a Nazi.” They’d play dumb, but Eryc would say, “Lift up your shirt,” and they’d have white power tattoos. One guy had an “SS” on his chest and said it was his girlfriend’s initials.

MacKaye: There were a lot of knuckleheads coming to our shows; a pretty healthy dose of white power skinhead kids that didn’t like our band but their reason for existence was to fight. And for $5, getting into a show with a lot of progressives is a good night out for them.

Astor: We told all the bouncers, “We’re going to turn these people away and it’s your job to get them out of line.” So a bunch of skinheads crawled onto the roof of the club. There were police helicopters overhead, shining their spotlights and shooing them off the building.

Pistrui: Beats the Hell Out of Me was playing our opening set, and we had a song called “Tear It Down” where I scream that over and over for the chorus. And while we were playing the song, the crowd outside started getting crazy, and when I started singing “Tear it down,” people started rocking the gate. And they ended up cutting our power in the middle of the song. We weren’t really happy about that. So I started getting naked on stage and they plugged us back in. A microphone accidentally got damaged and the production crew got pissed and demanded we pay for it, but Ian MacKaye told them to back off.

click to enlarge A flyer for Fugazi's 1991 show at Silver Dollar. - SCOTT EAKINS
A flyer for Fugazi's 1991 show at Silver Dollar.
Scott Eakins
MacKaye: While I don’t remember the incident, it sounds like something I’d do. I’m not scared of sound people.

Astor: The club owners insisted there be a chain-link fence in front of the stage, because they didn’t want people on the stage. We fought them, but they put it up.

MacKaye: As I recall, [the fencing] was set up in cinder blocks; it was so ramshackle. I remember saying to security, “This isn’t going to work.” They were like, “We’re going to stand between the stage and the fence so we can maintain control.” But a crowd that size is going to surge and that thing couldn’t support it. During our very first song, the fence toppled, pinning the bouncers against the stage. We stopped [and] had the crowd lift the fence up and pass it back across their heads all the way to the back where it was deposited on the ground.

Walworth: The barricade getting passed overhead, the police helicopters — it was all surreal, the whole experience.

Astor: And then halfway through Fugazi’s [set], Ian fell through the stage.

MacKaye: When I played, sometimes I’d jump up and down. And suddenly, I was a lot lower than everybody. I went straight through the stage and went up to my thighs, because it wasn’t that high. I didn’t even understand what’d happened. It was just fucked up. My legs got a little cut up going through.

Astor: The story I heard was the stage had been used on a Led Zeppelin tour and some of the plywood on top was rotted out. I tried helping him [MacKaye] out. He got all splintered up, but that sort of shit happens back when you’re a bunch of scrappy young promoters.

MacKaye: It was a good gig, as I recall. It was just confrontational. I don’t mean it like the crowd was trying to fight the band or vice-versa. The evening was just adversarial. Everyone was fighting to make it happen, and it had challenge after challenge. But that’s what made those gigs so great, because we all wanted to succeed so something transcendent would occur. And I think that night, the surrealness of everything going on, certainly was transcendent. So I remember it, even if it was almost 30 years ago.

Astor: We made enough money from Fugazi to afford to book a lot more shows.

Astor and Three Guys Productions began to book the burgeoning punk bands of the era like Big Drill Car, NOFX, and Citizen Fish. Meanwhile, the Silver Dollar continued to host groundbreaking electronic artists, like the first-ever U.S. performance by a European ambient house group on Halloween night in 1991.

Walworth: I remember showing up to Citizen Fish, making our way inside, and just being leveled by the music. It was the bass guitar. I don’t even know who everyone was in the band, but I was like, “Dude, this is amazing sound.” It got into my head and it was inspiring.

Astor: A friend of ours stole this Ronald McDonald statue from a McDonald’s and got arrested, so we did something called the “McBenefit” with Pennywise. We gave him all the money we made off the show so he could put it toward his defense. He was always pulling pranks. And I don’t think he wound up using the money for his legal stuff.

Burwell: The Orb playing its first American show in Phoenix was a big deal. Everybody expected that they were going to perform [live electronica], but didn’t really expect them to just spin music. For, like, the first 10 minutes, people were kind of staring at each other, like, “Is this really The Orb?” Because at the time they had a hit track, “Little Fluffy Clouds,” with that great Rickie Lee Jones sample and everyone was waiting around to hear it.

Commerford: The Orb was fantastic. What I remember is they were running around [the club] and had these flower stickers with daisies on them and they would stick them on people and go, “Be crazy, daisy.”

Burwell: You could show up at the Silver Dollar on any given night and always hear something new. It was basically like the heavy hitters of anything that was underground at the time.

click to enlarge X back in the day. - MASQUE PUBLICITY 2009 PHOTO © 1979 BY FRANK GARGANI
X back in the day.
Masque Publicity 2009 Photo © 1979 by Frank Gargani
In 1992, the Silver Dollar hosted punk legends X and up-and-comers like Pegboy, Born Against, and The Offspring. Indie, noise, and art-rock bands also continued to be featured at the club on the regular.

Astor: We helped put on X’s show with [longtime Valley concert promoter Tom LaPenna], who booked it. The bigger promoters in town did tickets in advance, but not us. We just did cash at the door. I basically sat in a back room with John Doe for an hour counting money after the show. Probably the nicest person in music I ever met. They usually got paid with a check, so getting handed a big wad of money was something different. Born Against didn’t mind getting paid in cash either, but they were punks.

That spring, the Silver Dollar got a new neighbor: America West Arena (now known as PHX Arena) opened a couple of blocks away. There were some amusing interactions between the two venues, but the arena’s arrival was a harbinger of gentrification afoot downtown.

Astor: We used to play craps with some of the construction workers building the arena who’d park in the back of the club or stop by for a drink. There was always a game going on, no matter what time of day.

Walworth: We saw Jesus Lizard at the Silver Dollar and snuck in, which we were doing half the time. Doing whatever we could to be a part of something. We just wanted to experience it. We were probably in there for about 10 minutes, I have no idea. I was kind of intoxicated. [Frontman] David Yow got completely naked. He was an animal. The Cure was playing the same night at America West Arena, and I remember someone commenting, “All those dudes at The Cure show when it lets out will probably be shocked if they came in and saw David Yow pulling on his ballsack.”

Bostrom: That part of downtown wasn’t going to stay inhospitable forever. It was no doubt earmarked for demolition or development someday so they could put something bigger in there, like sports [arenas].

Elsewhere in the Valley, Steven Rogers’ new Scottsdale nightclub, The Works, opened and tapped into the same arty and underground verve as Silver Dollar. It wasn’t the only competition, as local raves and warehouse parties were becoming more of a thing.

Rogers: I didn’t think about it that much at the time, but in retrospect, Silver Dollar definitely was a bit of an inspiration for The Works. I wanted a different kind of bar that wasn’t another Mill Avenue frat-boy hangout and had a mix of everything: my own ideas, things they were doing at raves, stuff I’d seen in New York and San Francisco. I probably only went in Silver Dollar maybe a handful of times and was making friends with people, and some ended up working for me, from Eddie [Amador] to this gal, Miss Coco. She was my cigarette and candy girl.

Amador: Steven worked with [the late] Vince Johnson, this all-American Ralph Lauren Black gentleman who was totally a poster boy for gay men, but was really an underground-loving house DJ. He’d come to the club and talk music. Toward the end of the Silver Dollar’s run, he showed up one night in a white limo and said, “Eddie, come on out with us.” I got in and he started talking me up about coming to The Works.

Rogers: Silver Dollar was almost like this seed. I was able to take that seed and grow it into something bigger at The Works. But, I mean, they deserve all the credit for what they were doing there.

Commerford: It’s flattering to know that The Works was inspired by some of what we had going at the Dollar, but they kind of stole our spotlight and helped hasten our demise.

Flores: The Works pretty much took our concept, put money behind it, and ran with it. We were working on a shoestring budget.

Amador: Dance music in general was starting to blow up right around then, especially house and techno. [Now-defunct local EDM label and store] Swell Records was about to start up, Blaz was still putting on his underground parties, DJs were doing warehouse events. There was just more out there.

Burwell: There’s definitely a through-line from what the Silver Dollar was doing to the [nightlife] we have today. It helped inspire The Works, which in turn influenced the clubs of Scottsdale and around the Valley.

The Silver Dollar kept rolling along, even if the club was living on borrowed time. Its calendar was as diverse as ever. In August 1992, Phunk Junkeez headlined a genre-hopping local showcase that drew more than 1,000 people.

click to enlarge Phunk Junkeez circa 1992. - JOE VALIENTE
Phunk Junkeez circa 1992.
Joe Valiente
Valiente: We loved that show. Out back, there were DJs like Z-Trip and Sandra Collins on one side with their mixers, punk bands and [rappers] on the other with a PA, and fans everywhere. It was packed.

Bostrom: Meat Puppets played outside on Halloween, and it was one of those all-ages shows that went on forever. We played in excess of two hours with an extended encore, starting off with “I Walked with Zombie,” then Spot came up and joined us for “Sloop John B,” “Do Ra Me,” “Battle of New Orleans.” We finally finished with a medley of Feederz hits. It went very late, and we were chased off the stage by management. I assume for a Meat Puppets show like this, everybody made sure they had acid, which was the thing folks did [at our shows].

Tynor: One of my favorite memories was that last D.I. show before Silver Dollar closed, where they brought Face to Face out here for the first time and nobody knew who they were. And, holy shit, they blew us all away. Once they started, everybody was in front of the stage. The thing that made it really memorable is that somewhere in the middle of D.I.’s set, someone went onstage or backstage and stole one of their guitars. So they stopped the whole show or they weren’t going to do the encore unless they got the guitar back and actually chased someone down Madison, tackled them, and got the guitar back.

The plug was pulled on the Silver Dollar in late 1992. Depending on who you ask, it was due to Phoenix and Maricopa County officials eyeing the club and the surrounding area as the future site for Bank One Ballpark (now called Chase Field), Silver Dollar ownership going their separate ways, or a combination of both.

Blankenship: The stadium was coming in and they wanted the property, and that was it for the club. And it was forced to close down. The city people came in and said the business had to move, but what they were offering for the building wasn’t enough to start elsewhere. At the same time, all the partners wanted different things. So that was it.

Williams: They just told the employees one day we were closing down. We had a huge party with free drinks and we all got loaded as hell.

Blankenship: The Silver Dollar had good shows, groundbreaking events, and tried treating everyone as friends in a part of downtown where others feared to tread, let alone open a business. We took a chance on it, just as we took a chance on running these shows. I think that’s the legacy of the club.

Silver Dollar’s last shows took place on Saturday, January 2, and Sunday, January 3, 1993, and were headlined by Green Day. Originally booked as a single gig on Saturday night on the inside stage, the band, which was on the cusp of signing its breakthrough deal with Reprise Records, added an outdoor matinee the following afternoon due to the enormous turnout.

Ramsey: We did the Green Day show indoors, because we figured, if it’s the last day at the fucking club, we’re going to do it indoors and blow things out. It was totally the right decision. The energy was amazing inside. We had something like 500 kids crammed in there and another 1,000 out the back door.

Tynor: I went there the first night not even thinking I was going to get in because it was an indoor show with a 400 or 500 cap. I was just dropping off a tape for Bill Ramsey. People were complaining that their friends got in but they didn’t. I saw Billie Joe [Armstrong] in the front of club talking to a lot of the fans who couldn’t get in, which was really cool of him.

Ramsey: Green Day stayed over that night and didn’t have anything the next day, so they stuck around and played a matinee, since so many people couldn’t get inside.

Walworth: I had a friend that got me and my girlfriend in because I was videotaping it. They played most of the songs off Dookie, only we didn’t know it yet. It was the first time any of us had heard “Longview” or “Basket Case,” and I was like, “Wow, what’s this?”

Ramsey: They did [“Big Yellow Taxi”] by Joni Mitchell, because the rumor at the time was they were making the building into a parking lot for one of the stadiums, so that’s why he played that song. Someone recorded the first show, [and] I think that bootleg is one of the Silver Dollar’s biggest claims to fame.

Ramsey: The toilets overflowed and flooded everywhere and people were standing in two inches of water, which I’m sure wasn’t the safest thing. I didn’t see any floaters, at least.

Editor’s note: Some quotes were edited or condensed for clarity.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.